What is Phencyclidine, and how does it look like?

Phencyclidine is a bitter-tasting, white crystalline powder that detaches its users from themselves, the reality, and the environment. It also causes changes in sensory functions and triggers behavior that is associated with schizophrenia. 

This white crystalline powder is highly soluble in alcohol and water, which diversifies its forms; you can find it in liquid form and various colors. Other dealers sell it in its traditional powder form wrapped in a foil, as a tablet, or in the form of a capsule. 

What other moniker does it go by?

Phencyclidine has various street names, including; angel dust, cliffhanger, peace pill, happy sticks, rocket fuel, hog, lethal weapon, DOA, kools, wack, supergrass, and ozone. 

How is it consumed?

Users of PCP can eat, inject, smoke, or snort the hallucinogen. Depending on the method of use, the effects may appear instantly or take a while. For example, when smoking PCP, the effects will present within two to five minutes. Users usually take the Phencyclidine, dissolve it in a liquid and apply it on smokable materials like cannabis, parsley, mint, or oregano.

Methods like eating Phencyclidine may take some time before the effects are felt. This is because the hallucinogen has to go through the digestive tract before getting absorbed into the bloodstream. 

Other factors like metabolic rate, consumption rate, and tolerance also play a huge role in determining the user’s effects and how long they will last.

The history of Phencyclidine

Phencyclidine was originally made to be a venous anaesthetic in 1926. It was introduced to the market in the 1950s and went under the name Sernyl. However, it was noted that in all patients that the PCP was administered, psychotic side effects were experienced.

Consequently, the drug was discontinued in 1965 for human use but remained useful in the tranquilization of animals until 1978. Currently, PCP is used by researchers in small amounts for experiments. 

Phencyclidine became a hit on the drug scene in 1960, long before it was discontinued. However, its use never picked up as it was associated with bad and unpopular reactions like violence and suicidal tendencies. Its use lowered significantly. 

PCP is classified as a schedule II drug that possesses the potential for abuse and high physical and psychological dependence. 

There has been a rising case of complications resulting from the consumption of Phencyclidine recently. However, considering the drug is illegal, its consumption is experimental since there is no standard dosage or measure of substance purity. This makes PCP a dangerous hallucinogen. 

How does it work?

PCP is known to block the reabsorption of serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine, which results in the brain disconnecting itself from reality. This is why Phencyclidine is known as a dissociative anaesthetic. Users are disconnected from the environment, themselves, and reality.

It takes between 20 minutes to an hour to feel the effects of PCP after ingesting it orally. Users will experience a sense of happiness and heightened senses. Sound, light, color, touches will feel totally different from the norm. Time may also be distorted.

A majority of PCP users have described the effects as ‘out of body’ or detachment sensations. Chronic users attach increased vigor, imperviousness, and supremacy to its effects. 

The fact that PCP is an anaesthetic means it can reduce pain drastically, which explains why people with chronic pain turn to it for relief. A section of users loves it for its mind-numbing effects.

Side effects of Phencyclidine

The effects of PCP on its users depend on the amount taken, the way it is taken, and the user’s tolerance. 

The side effects can be classified according to the dosage taken. 

Low/average dosage 

Increased blood pressure, hallucinations, detachment, dizziness, numbness, distorted sensory perception, confusion, and flatulating heart rate. 

High doses

Dangerously elevated blood pressure, aggressive tendencies, memory loss, hallucinations, stress, and increased body temperature. 

PCP is a strong sedative, and when taken alongside depressants like benzodiazepines and alcohol, it poses the risk of the user going into a coma. 

It is recommended to call 911 immediately if a friend or family member loses consciousness or is not responsive to physical and verbal efforts to wake them. Be honest and give a detailed account of what they have ingested so that they can be accorded proper care.

Physical and behavioral signs of Phencyclidine usage

Apart from finding the drug itself, you can tell numerous other ways if someone is on PCP. There are physical and behavioral signs that are characteristic of PCP consumption. 

Behavioral and personality changes like change in friends, a lack of enthusiasm in social activities, sports, and a drastic change in sleeping and eating habits. 

Parents and anyone close to someone suspected to be on PCP should look out for the physical signs highlighted below;

  • A sense of disorientation and detachment from reality and the surroundings.
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Flushing and intense sweating
  • Involuntary flickering of the eyelids

As mentioned earlier, PCP is illegal under federal law. The PCP products bought illegally are unstable and created from varying formulas. The purity is questionable, and dosing is nearly impossible, which makes overdosing quite quick and easy. Let’s look at some signs associated with a PCP overdose.

  • Agitation and aggression
  • Involuntary side to side movement of the eyes
  • Hallucinations
  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Distorted consciousness
  • Severe trance whereby the user is unable to react to external stimuli including touch and touch
  • Coma
  • Psychosis
  • Lack of coordination 

Common myths and FAQ on Phencyclidine

Does PCP give users superhuman strength? 

It is a common belief that PCP gives the user extraordinary strength, but there hasn’t been any evidence to support the claims that it increases muscle power. However, the drug does spark aggressive behavior and agitation. It also alters one’s perception, so the user might ‘think’ they have punched a wall, but in reality, they haven’t. 

Does PCP turn users into cannibals or psychotic killers?

It does not unless the user had those tendencies before taking PCP. What PCP does is stir aggression but not murderous acts. Its hallucinogenic effects, which affect the user for 24 hours to a couple of weeks, can have psychoactive effects on the user. These effects are similar to those displayed by schizophrenic patients. 

How long does Phencyclidine stay in your system?

Phencyclidine has a half-life of 21 hours. However, it can be detected on your system after a few days or months depending on the following factors:

  1. Type of test conducted.
  2. Age of user
  3. The metabolic rate of the user
  4. Rate of hydration
  5. Frequency of use
  6. Dosage
  7. Body mass
Type of testDuration of PCP detection after use
UrineI to 30 days depending on frequency of use
Blood24 hours
SalivaUp to 10 days
Hair follicleUp to 3 months or 90 days

Tolerance, addiction, and withdrawal


As a scheduled II drug, PCP poses a great risk of misuse for physical and psychological fulfilment. With time, most users build up a tolerance for the hallucinogen, meaning they will have to take higher doses to achieve a similar or more potent ‘high’ as they did before. 


Taking PCP for a substantial amount of time and developing the habit of seeking it to feel fulfilled regardless of its adverse effects is a classic addiction symptom. 

Following the guidelines by the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), if you or a loved one is taking PCP and going through a minimum of two of the following symptoms within a year, then it is considered an addiction.

  1. Taking a higher dose of PCP than initially intended
  2. Lack of self-control when it comes to cutting back or discontinuing use
  3. Tolerance build-up
  4. Developing a craving for PCP
  5. Living a life that is below your potential, especially at school, work, or home
  6. Most of your time is spent purchasing, using, or rehabilitating from PCP.
  7. Continuing to use PCP despite it being a danger to oneself and others
  8. Disinterest in recreational, social, or occupational activities
  9. Continual use of PCP physical and psychological problems notwithstanding. 


Withdrawing from any drug is quite hard, and it needs time, patience and the assistance of a trained medical professional.

PCP withdrawal is not life-threatening, but the user does experience some physical and psychological symptoms associated with drug withdrawal like;

  1. Chills
  2. Tremors
  3. Diarrhea 
  4. Depression
  5. Sweating
  6. Craving
  7. Headaches
  8. Confusion 

For individuals who have used PCP for a long time, withdrawing is presented with severe symptoms like hallucinations, depression, flashbacks, memory loss, experiencing difficulties with speech & the thought process, and several mood disorders. These symptoms may last for close to a year after the cutting off the drug. 

Seek help, conquer the addiction

Sometimes, PCP can cause a ‘bad trip’, and when this happens, a user is placed in a quiet room that is void of sensory stimulation triggers. If the user experiences seizures or uncontrollable agitation, they are subjected to benzodiazepines to keep them in control and calm.

To date, there hasn’t been a cure for PCP addiction; however, cognitive and behavioral therapy has been known to help the user learn more about their addiction, the specific triggers, and how to overcome them.

Seeking the right medical guidance and having a support system is essential in recovering from PCP addiction. With time, one can learn how to care for and protect their body by avoiding harmful substances like Phencyclidine and focusing more on life’s positive aspects.

If you are currently looking for a way out and aren’t sure where to begin, seek your healthcare provider’s help. Any information you share with them is protected under patient-doctor privilege. They are best-suited to direct you on how to begin your new PCP-free life. 


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